Ukrainian Tennis Star Elina Svitolina Refuses To Play Against Russian; Her Opponent Responds

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The world’s highest-ranked Ukrainian tennis player, Elina Svitolina, announced today that due to the Russian invasion of her country, she would not play a “match against Russian or Belarussian [sic] tennis players until our organizations take this necessary decision.”

That decision, she said, should be for the ATP, WTA and ITF to treat Russian players as the IOC does, as “neutral athletes, without displaying any national symbols, colours, flags or anthems.” Svitolina is currently ranked 15th in the world. Her first-round opponent in the Abierto GNP Seguros WTA event in Monterrey, Mexico, today was to be Anastasia Potapova, who is Russian.

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Potapova responded shortly thereafter saying: “Even when I was a kid, I dreamed of playing tennis without choosing a match, a country or a partner in the game. … For me there is no opponent from any country, I am fighting for victory, my best game, my best result. … Unfortunately, now we, professional athletes, are essentially becoming hostages to the current situation. … I am against grief, tears and war.”

It wasn’t just players taking action.

Earlier in the day, the 38-year-old secretary of the Ukraine Tennis Federation, Evgeniy Zukin, slapped Tennis Europe chief executive Thomas Hammerl after an argument over what the Ukrainian described as a “disgracefully weak” statement from Tennis Europe regarding the conflict.

Related video: FIFA, UEFA ban Russia from competition

While the statement announced the suspension of junior events in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine and urged “the international tennis community to show solidarity to players from the nations concerned,” it did not explicitly condemn the invasion.

Zukin told Telegraph Sport of the incident at a Tennis Europe board event, “I read the statement, finished my dinner, stood up, turned around, saw him [Hammerl] sitting five tables near me, and asked him ‘How come you could do this?’ He said, ‘Go away.’ I gave him a light slap and walked away.”

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